Rather than have one essay about our December, we’re going Currier and Ives style with a collection of Christmas vignettes. Please enjoy.
When I was small, my parents kept on the bottom of their bookshelf a Nutcracker book illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It came from the gift shop at Seattle’s Nutcracker ballet, and for years I'd creep into the living room, pull out the big, square book from the part of the bookshelf that lived behind the couch. I would leaf through the book’s pages, both delighted and horrified by the swirl of snowflake fairies, magical candy dancers, vicious mice, and the dreaded, seven-headed mouse king. The two-page close up of the nutcracker’s maniacal, wide-toothed grin was so deliciously terrifying that my brothers and I would flap the book open at each other with screeching noises.
As my own children’s Nutcracker dance recital approached, we watched George Balanchine’s Nutcracker on Netflix three whole times. It’s a long show with minimal narration, so I was surprised and gratified by Selah and Ozzie’s pure enthrallment with the story and its host of magical characters. We spent most of December scurrying around the kitchen making whiskers with our fingers like the mice dancers and leaping across the living room like the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Finally, the dance performance arrived. (Click this link to see!)
I couldn’t have hoped for a more satisfying and delightful passing down of this memorable childhood story.
Ozzie: “I would like ten pairs of pants, a toy motorcycle, and a toy plant.”
Nana: “What is a toy plant?”
Ozzie: “Like that.” (Points to a houseplant.) “But a toy.”
Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments
A few weeks ago, friends of ours described their first-year marriage crisis: pretty tree with matching ornaments or wonky tree with sentimental value? Our tree is a smattering of random ornaments I collected throughout my childhood and ones added in ornament exchanges with my family. Our annual visit to the Christmas Store in Gig Harbor always provides another weird little glittering tribute to banjos, ballerinas, or mushrooms.
Wonky works for this vignette.
When it comes to other Christmas decor, however, I get quickly overwhelmed by excess. A house full of kids is an automatic battle against clutter, which hardly leaves me with room for snow globes or figurines (at least not emotionally!)
Here's the truth about cinnamon applesauce ornaments.
They fall apart.
But not immediately, no -for a few glorious weeks they will hold up on that garland between my kitchen and dining room, issuing delightful wafts of apple-cinnamon as I pass by. Then, when I am ready to pack up my tree and random ornament collection, the cinnamon ornaments will mercifully resign themselves.
They hold no obligations over my head like the stiff perseverance of salt dough. They crumble when they're time is up, not only to graciously release me from packing them every January but also as an invitation to relive the fun of making fresh-smelling ones every year. How polite!
1 cup applesauce
1.5 cups cinnamon
Mix until a dough forms. Roll out, cut and bake on parchment at 200 for an hour. Your house will smell like a spicy apple pie!
When they start crumbling, compost them. (No hard feelings!)
P.s. You can add elmer’s glue to these so they’ll live forever BUT WHY.
At the holiday market in Fort Jones, I brought piles of my naturally dyed tea towels, pillows, and tablecloths, expecting to be the giver behind the table. Instead, my friends helped me set up my booth (redesigning it to be 10x better,) brought me breakfast and coffee, and sat with me all day, each one coming and going so that my little 10x10 space felt like a rotating living room. At one point there were four women and two babies behind the table with me; in the tiny nook we sat together on fleece-draped chairs, sharing with an openness that made my heart squeeze against my chest cavity.
After practically the whole valley had drifted through the craft fair, we packed up. Still, I was relentlessly helped by a friend who stayed to get all my things into the truck. As the two of us moved my tables, boxes, and sets of chairs into the pickup, tears stung my eyes.
The women in my life have not only challenged me to be a better person through conversation and example, but also they have asked me to grow in vulnerability through receiving their extravagant love. Sometimes the giving role feels easier: the “doing” posture can feel more comfortable, more in control. Receiving is an act of embracing someone else’s feelings of love for me, and it nudges my own struggle with self-acceptance.
This Christmas, I am learning to silence that icky voice of self-accusation and instead behold the overwhelmingly gracious gifts being given to me.
A thrill of hope: when he appeared and the soul felt its worth. May your soul feel its worth through all the vignettes of the holidays.